John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Surface book mini review

I got a chance to briefly play with a Surface book (version 1). It really is a very different beast then other devices in the market. The unit consists of a “clipboard” and a base. I had originally thought of the clipboard like a Surface, but that’s not accurate. The clipboard has absolutely no ports on it. It does not have a kickstand to hold it. The power cable cable be used in the center of the unit without the base but honestly it just feels like your doing something odd … Personally I’ve tried unsuccessfully to use Windows 8 and 10 as standalone tablets (without a keyboard) and in the end been so underwhelmed by the experience as to be disenfranchised from the concept of a Windows tablet. The biggest let down being the keyboard.

There’s a battery in the base unit as well as one in the clipboard:
Surface Book total 69.0 Wh, 9,187 mAh, 7.5 V 12 hours
— clipboard 18.0 Wh 2,387 mAh, 7.5 V 3 hours (referred to in Windows as Battery 1)
— base 51.0 Wh 6,800 mAh, 7.5 V 9 hours (referred to in Windows as Battery 2)

With the stock charger which is 40W, the unit from dead takes over 5 hours to charge. Sheesh. There apparently is a 102W charger that MAY speed up the charge time for an additional $129, even the Microsoft store could not confirm if this would (or would not) speed up the charging.

As you can see the bulk of the battery is in the base. In terms of ports there are 2xUSB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, SD card reader, mini headphone/mic combo jack and ALL of these are on the base. As mentioned above the clipboard has none, zero, zip nada.

The placement of keys on the base is quite good and most things are where they ought to be with the exception of the home/end, page up/dn and insert which are oddly places on the PF keys. Being an old keyboard hound I use the PF keys so stick the Fn on which allows me to work more naturally but ends up clumsily on those out of place keys. Feel of the keyboard is not bad but there is very little travel to the keys. The glide point works well, probably one of the better ones.

I’m a hater when it comes to glidepoints, but I have to say, this is one of the best most sensitive glide points I’ve encountered. Even the right mouse button works properly on this glidepoint. VERY usable. I could live with this one!

The mechanism that joins the clipboard/base is a magnetic one that you lock and unlock by a button on the keyboard. The connection between the two feels super firm and the hing mechanism is one of the best I’ve encountered. The display is held nicely in place at the angle you choose. Really quite impressive. It still bounces around as you peck at the screen but still …


The big rub on a device like this is that a lot of money has been spent on allowing you to detach the clipboard. But by having no kickstand, and no ports your really not going to do this a lot so what’s the point? You might as well have a laptop.

The overall specs for this device are:
• Processor: 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 3GHz with Turbo Boost)
• Graphics: Intel HD graphics 520; Nvidia GeForce graphics (1GB GDDR5 high-speed memory)
• RAM: 8GB
• Screen: 13.5-inch, 3,000 x 2,000 (267 ppi) PixelSense Display
• Storage: 256GB PCIe3.0 SSD
• Ports: All on base2 x USB 3.0 , mini DisplayPort, SD card reader, mini headphone/mic combo jack
• Connectivity: 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
• Weight: 3.48 pounds (1.58kg)
• Size: 12.3 x 9.14 x 0.51-0.90 (W x D x H) (312 x 232 x 13-22.8 mm)

The display resolution is outstanding and probably one of the best in the business. It’s bright, and crisp. It’s of course a touchscreen with a digitizer for the usual surface pen. The display aspect ration of 3:2 works well for all but movies in which case your looking at some letter box black around the movie. When you turn the device to use with the pen I can see why they call it a clipboard cause that’s what it feels like. It’s not the easiest thing to hold and it’s reasonably heavy so your unlikely to be walking around with it all day …

The pen as always with Surface works well. The end of the pen acts as an eraser, a thought that never crossed Apple’s mind on the Apple pencil. Why Apple didn’t learn from other people’s experiences is beyond me, but that’s typical Apple, reinvent the wheel … I do digress.

The fact that WIFI is done using MIO I can only imagine will present some speed limitations but I didn’t have a chance to test that out. The adapter is a marvell adapter which seems like an odd choice for such an expensive device. I would have expected Intel, I can only imagine it’s to do with the fact it’s MIO.

There is no wired NIC … You could have a docking station with one …

At 3.48 pounds this is a bruiser. The weight and solidness of this unit is super noticeable. The magnesium used in the build of the unit provides a sturdy, durable, quality feel, but the cost is a BIG weight. If you choose to use the clipboard it likely won’t be for long. I take notes digitally and there is not a chance I would carry this thing around in anything but an office environment for short periods of time.

There is no Kensington lock recepitcal on either so I guess they figure you won’t leave it alone for long. Surely you can’t live without it at your side at all times? This is particularly odd given the price and potential use in a corporate environment.

Plugging and unplugging the external display worked well once I told it my preferences.

The camera like most tablets lacks a flash of any kind. Not a biggie but worth noting.

The video conferencing camera has been designed with Windows hello in mind so you can use facial recognition to unlock the tablet. And this works surprisingly well, fast and convenient.

The SSD is a Samsung mzflv256hchp-000mv and it delivers speeds of 277MB/s write and 464MB/s reads. For reference the Asus T300 Chi I last tested got 177MB/s write and 175MB/s read according to H2TestW. This is quite impressively quick. There’s an old line from Max max … Speeds just a question of cost … how fast would you like to go 🙂

Memory wise it comes with 8G of DDR3 RAM, memory is not upgradeable (I believe).

All in all this is a pretty amazing machine with an astronomical price. Now would I put my cash down on it? Nope not a chance, but I will miss it …


March 14, 2019 - Posted by | Windows tablets

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